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KORETZ REVIVES QUEST FOR BEACH-SMOKING BAN.

Byline: Harrison Sheppard Sacramento Bureau

With cigarette butts the top source of trash on California beaches, Assemblyman Paul Koretz is again pushing an effort to ban smoking on state beaches.

``This has second-hand smoke implications and environmental implications with the millions of cigarettes we have on our beaches that get into the ocean and cause environmental hazards,'' said Koretz, D-West Hollywood.

Koretz proposed a similar bill last session. However, it failed by a single vote on the Senate floor at the end of session, with Koretz unable to be in Sacramento to work the bill because of a family emergency.

He is optimistic he can push the measure through this session, especially since more local communities - including Los Angeles County - have already banned smoking on their beaches.

The California Coastal Commission, which sponsors an annual Coastal Cleanup Day, said cigarette butts comprised about 40 percent of the 690,000 pounds of trash that volunteers picked up on the beaches last year. That was the 19th straight year in which cigarette butts were the most common item found on the beaches.

Environmental experts say the butts are particularly toxic to fish and other wildlife that may accidentally consume the cigarettes.

California has about 280 miles of state beaches along its 1,100-mile coastline. The state maintains six beaches in Los Angeles County and four in Ventura County.

Most of the state beaches in Los Angeles County already ban smoking because of ordinances passed by the local cities in which they are located.

Still, Los Angeles County officials discovered when they banned smoking on two beaches earlier this year, it made no difference in the amount of cigarette butts on the beach.

The county Board of Supervisors approved a ban on Topanga Beach and Marina Beach from June to September 2004.

But the county's departments of beaches and harbors ``reported no appreciable change in the amount of cigarette butts found on either beach or in the beach parking lots during their beach cleaning activities,'' according to a report issued in October by department director Stan Wisniewski.

He said many of the cigarette butts found on the beaches come from boaters, cigarettes in the parking lot where smoking was allowed and urban runoff - butts washing off the streets and sidewalks when it rains, down into the storm drains and then flowing to the ocean.

While Republicans are likely to oppose Koretz's bill, the tobacco industry might not.

A spokeswoman for Philip Morris, the country's largest cigarette manufacturer, said the company decided November to cease lobbying against bills that relate to public-health issues and smoking.

``We believe, just as the public should be guided by the findings of public health, the policy-makers should be guided by public health with regard to decisions on smoking restrictions,'' said Jamie Drogin, a spokesperson for the Richmond, Va.-based tobacco giant.

``We will not engage in any lobbying activities of any sort or any coalition activities that pertain to smoking restrictions.''

A spokesman for No. 2-ranked R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. said while the company would oppose such restrictions, it does not consider lobbying against the bill a high priority, compared to other issues such as excise taxes, indoor smoking bans elsewhere in the country and other laws that restrict the sale of cigarettes.

Still, R.J. Reynolds communications director John Singleton argued it doesn't seem necessary to ban smoking outdoors.

``In our view it's unnecessary to ban smoking in indoor venues, so when you talk about banning it outside, we think that's clearly over the top,'' Singleton said. ``We don't see any good rationale for it.''

Koretz's bill last session failed on the Senate floor by one vote, partially because of several abstentions or absences, with most opposition coming from Republicans.

Assembly Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, said he still has to review the bill, but he is skeptical about the state attempting to regulate smoking behavior on beaches.

``The state should focus more on budget, education and transportation more than we should try to create more intrusion into people's personal lives,'' McCarthy said.

Harrison Sheppard, (916)446-6723

harrison.sheppard(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 1, 2005
Words:686
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